NYC subway rider describes deterioration of system amid crime wave

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Like many other straphangers, Pamela Dayton feels increasingly anxious about taking the subway.

The 62-year-old actress, who lives in Hudson Heights, rides the A train and relies on the 181st Street station in Manhattan, where a crazed Rigoberto Lopez allegedly stabbed two straphangers last weekend. Authorities said he killed two others who were discovered at opposite ends of the line.

The latest violent assault — on a 19-year-old who was punched in the face on Friday at the Columbus Circle A train stop — is a reminder of the danger Dayton and others face just getting around town. 

She tells The Post what it’s like for her to ride the rails in 2021:  

I have been taking the A train from my upper Manhattan neighborhood downtown for 21 years, and I’ve always felt safe on the subway. In recent months, that’s changed.

Even before the murder last weekend at the 207th Street station — which happened just one stop from my regular station at 181st Street — my neighbors and I had grown fearful of the drug users and mentally disturbed people who have infiltrated the subway recently.

Station closed as a result of criminal investigation.
On corner of Broadway and W 181st.
The A train station at West 181st Street after a stabbing spree left two dead and two injured last weekend.
Robert Miller for NY Post

We were saddened to see how the problems we’ve noticed for months came to such a violent culmination that ended the lives of two New Yorkers and have undoubtedly scared countless more away from our public transportation system. 

Rigoberto Lopez
Rigoberto Lopez, the alleged “The A-Train Ripper”

I’m an actress, and when work is steady, I take the train into midtown on a regular basis. Now, I ride the subway about three times a week.

In recent months, at the 181st Street station, I have seen people shooting up, panhandlers have become uncomfortably aggressive and people sleeping on benches or in the stairwells are the norm. Hypodermic needles litter the tracks.

These problems aren’t all due to the pandemic, but COVID has laid them bare for all to see.

While the unwanted riders seem to have grown in numbers since the pandemic began, the subways have emptied of cops and most other passengers, meaning you often feel left to fend for yourself.

A person on the platform at the 182nd Street A train subway station.
A person on the platform at the 181st Street A train subway station.
J.C.Rice for NY Post

This week, in the wake of the stabbings, online neighborhood chat forums lit up with requests to add another MTA agent at 181st Street. People just want an extra pair of eyes.

I’ve become accustomed to keeping my guard up on the train. I don’t listen to headphones anymore, I avoid taking the subways after dark, and I watch everyone who boards my car closely.

One of the scariest encounters happened to me when I was alone on a car.

Pam Dawton
Pamela Dayton lives in Hudson Heights and grabs the A train at the 181st Street.
J.C.Rice for NY Post

I was using a cane at the time and felt vulnerable. A leering man sat right next to me. When I moved to another seat, he moved, too, and when my 42nd Street stop finally came, he tried to block me from exiting and asked where I was going.

The other passengers who eventually boarded seemed to be oblivious, or pretended to be.

It’s clear to me and many of my neighbors that we need more police on the platforms — not just minding the turnstiles or the street entrances — before someone else gets hurt.

Public transportation is one of New Yorkers’ only connections to our pre-COVID lives, and it’s distressing that it, too, is deteriorating.

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